The Channel 4 presenter picks out his best bets from the big Saturday races.
A truly magnificent running of the Betfair Chase (3.00) that brings together two of the most exciting horses around. However, the more I look at this race the more I believe that CONEYGREE should be favourite and, given the conditions, it’s possible he could win by quite a long way. Quite simply, he won’t mind the ground at all and he’s a formidable, remorseless galloper who, if fully fit – and the yard regularly have horses piping fit after a lay-off – could grind his rivals into submission.
Perhaps only Alice Plunkett loves Cue Card more than I do but he still needs to build on that Wetherby reappearance and, whilst that is entirely feasible, the ageing curve is going to catch up with him at some point, and there is a possible it might might have done that. It would be a wonderful achievement if Colin Tizzard could win another Betfair Chase with him.
I have respect for all of the runners in this race and still believe Irish Cavalier can be a major force in these races through the season but this sort of ground isn’t going to be ideal for Rebecca Curtis’ charge. Although Seeyouatmidnight is a stayer, I’m not convinced he wants it bottomless either, so Coneygree is the selection and hopefully he produces another sparkling performance to maintain his unbeaten record over fences.
A number were on the shortlist for the Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle (2.25) but I eventually settled on CAID DU BERLAIS. Appreciably, he is up 8lb for his Aintree win but he couldn’t have done it any easier and physically he looks a more complete specimen than even when he was winning a Paddy Power Gold Cup chase as a younger horse. Stan Sheppard looks very impressive for his 5lb claim and that could prove crucial in a tight race like this. A couple of others that could go well are Westren Warrior who has been targeted at this race for some time and who loves heavy ground, and the dark horse could be Theo’s Charm, stepping up in trip and with proven form in soft ground.
In the Grade 2 chase at Ascot (2.05), DODGING BULLETS could be another Paul Nicholls-trained winner. It was a perfectly good run under a big weight in the Haldon Gold Cup and he looks ready for a step up in trip now. The way he went through the race at Exeter reminded me of the horse of two seasons ago, rather than that of last season, so I would expect him to take some beating here.
In what looks a really trappy handicap chase at 3.15, I think it’s worth taking a chance on COLD MARCH who has strong course and distance form to his name courtesy of a seven-length success in a Listed event just over 12 months ago. He’s not been able to recapture that form since he’s proved he can go well fresh and I don’t think that he is at all harshly treated off this mark. His trainer, who has always thought quite a lot of the gelding, has been among the winners of late and conditions should be right up his street. There is always a doubt that Vaniteux isn’t the stoutest of finishers, especially if the ground comes up testing, while Sire De Grugy might need another run to put him spot on.